Chickens vs Predators? Chickens Always Lose

Freckle&Elvis

We’ve raised chickens for eggs for 13 years now and have seen more than our fair share of death in the coop. Sometimes they go quietly and quickly and sometimes you can look at a bird and know they will be gone in three days based on their symptoms. It’s just how nature works.

Last night we got a call from a friend, who was watching our chickens while we attended a family reunion, because he suspected some fowl play had happened to our two free range yard birds. Normally, these birds ,Elvis and Freckle, ran up to humans in the hope of getting fed so when they did not come racing across the yard he knew that was a red flag. When he saw a few white feathers on the ground along the back side of the chicken shed he decided it was time to call me.

Sure enough, after returning a little bit ago, I tracked a trail of trodden tall grass to a set of pine along our property line only to find the remains of both of them. The only thing to do now is make sure whatever decided to take these two doesn’t decided to take the rest of the birds or, worse yet, they three cats we have living with us that have full access to the outside.

For the record, Elvis was a rare commodity. He was a rooster that never developed any alpha tendencies and always maintained a healthy fear of me. He won a 1st place blue ribbon at the 2012 Benton County Fair. Freckle, on the other hand, was a wily feral hatched bird that lived free from beginning to end, never having actual physical contact with humans. They were a twosome flock that stayed together through several seasons and they went down together. That’s where their story ends.

Elvis gets his Blue Ribbon

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Our Tiny Home Experiment – Chapter 2: Dealing With One Of Life’s Constants

change

If there is one thing you learn to accept, or blithely ignore, is that CHANGE will happen whether you want it or not. The timeline for building our tiny home has moved time and again. First, we were going to build it early in the spring so that we would have a place to stay when we remodeled our normal sized house during the summer. As of right now, we are over half way through July and so far we’ve got nothing built. Fear not though, a few of the things that have held us up, or changed the plans, may be good in the end.

First off, at about the same time as we reported Chapter 1 of our journey a friend told us of an open casting call for a TV show that  was looking for a family with children who might be interested in living in a tiny home. I didn’t think it would go anywhere but I followed up on a link to their site and submitted our basic information. The whole thing seemed like one of those moments when you send your resume off for a job and never get a response in return. That is what I was expecting, but the very next day we received a call from that casting company. We spoke briefly about why we were interested in tiny home living and how it would be a great learning experience for all of us. They said they would probably call back in about a week about setting up a Skype interview with both my wife and I.

That was cool! Getting a callback was more than we’d ever expected. Well, then there was a Skype interview which was recorded for an audition and follow-up messages and calls. Nothing has happened, but they’ve said things are still moving forward. Will anything come of it? Who knows, but the whole possibility is very intriguing nonetheless and the continued possibility of this being something has kept us from really embracing our build project. Can you blame us? Since nothing is for sure, all the major details of this casting thing are left out of the article and you will be neuralized upon finishing reading this so as to not in any way derail our chances.

Time waits for no man. This being the case, we’ve once again started moving forward on our tiny home project. After consulting with a trailer specialist, the cost to strip our 7×10 trailer down was about the same cost of buying a newly built custom and larger 7×12 trailer to our specs. The additional length and ability to spread the width out beyond the frame will give us approximately an overall exterior size of 8×13. BONUS! Also the trailer place said it should be built and ready for us by next week. Then it’s just a matter of changing our designs to accommodate the additional room.

We’ll obviously have a lot more to talk about on this front in the near future. Huzzah for simple living!

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Tasty Salisbury Steaks

Salisbury Steak

As the primary cook for a family of five, I have made peace with the fact that there are very few dishes that everyone will rave about. More often than not a few will love a dish while the others will eat without too much complaint. Once and awhile, I will come a crossed a rare gem of a recipe that everyone loves, the clouds part, and rainbows glitter in the sky. Usually, I run out and buy a lotto ticket after dinner because it truly is a lucky day. One of these rare beauties is Salisbury steak.

This Salisbury steak is a far cry from anything you would find on a school lunch room tray or in the frozen section of the grocery store. There is an added bonus because, more often than not, the ingredients are already in the house.

The base for this one is ground meat. For the 5 of us we will use 3lbs because, frankly, I like leftovers. We like to use ground turkey but really any will work for this one.  Premix your bread crumbs with 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, onion powder and Italian seasoning and mix together with your ground meat. Finally, add 2 eggs to the mixture with a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper.

Combine all the ingredients together.  The easiest way to thoroughly mix together all the ingredients is to roll your sleeves up and mix it with your hands. Patty out the meat as if you were making round hamburgers. Fry each one on both sides until browned.

Place in a baking dish deep enough that you can cover each of the patties with beef gravy. You can make your own gravy or use a pre-made gravy for convenience. Bake them in a covered dish at 400 for at least 30 to 45 mins.

Usually I will get them in the oven and get a pot of mashed potatoes going. By the time the potatoes are soft and ready to be mashed the Salisbury steaks are done as well. If mushrooms strike your fancy you can throw some sauteed mushrooms in with the gravy before you bake them.

The only complaint I hear after I make these for dinner is “I’m too full to do the dishes”.

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Mushroom Alfredo with Italian Chicken

Mushroom

Sunday is a great day for cooking here on the home front. It’s the day that I get to spend with the kids in the kitchen creating tasty things for a big dinner or sweet treats for the busy week ahead.

I wanted to do a twist on the traditional cream sauce to go with some leftover stuffed ravioli from a previous recipe post. Chicken sounded like a fantastic pairing with it, so I simmered chicken tenderloin strips with enough broth in the bottom of the pan to keep them from drying out while cooking. Sprinkled with some Italian herb seasoning, salt, pepper garlic power and onion powder flipped once to brown both sides and wrapped them up to keep them warm while building the sauce.

I started by sauteing two 16oz cans of baby Bella mushrooms and pulled them just as I had rendered the moisture from them without letting it cook at this time. With the butter and mushroom liquid still fresh I whipped together the roux. If you have questions about the roux please look to my previous article about mac and cheese, the gooey details can be found there.

Once the roux had been prepared, I added equal parts of milk and cream(three and three for us but if you are feeding less people you can decrease that).

While the base of the sauce was being brought back up to temperature, in a mini chopper I combines two tablespoons of minced garlic that was roasted previously with a tablespoon of olive oil and ¼ cup of cream and blended until smooth and then added it to the sauce. Finally, add butter with two cups of mixed Italian shredded cheese. Stir this until the cheese is entirely melted and incorporated.

Serve sauce, chicken, and mushrooms with the ravioli for a fantastic dinner!

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Adventures in Quinoa – Mac’n’Cheese is a Good Start

Quinoa

Change is good for the soul as they say. Good is certainly a matter of perspective, especially when we are talking about medical issues that result in a major change in the food we eat. Both my husband and my youngest were advised to remove artificial dyes, additives, preservatives and chemicals from the food they eat. In short, it means if you can’t pronounce it, then they shouldn’t eat it.

Add to this that the youngest also will not eat meat unless it is ground and hidden in something and even then he may pick some out(That is the sensory processing disorder, it is a texture thing.) and the older kids are pretty sure that cooking veggies is a crime against humanity in which a war tribunal should be constructed to execute a swift and severe punishment. Well that leaves us with organic PB & J’s for the rest of forever because I am not about to make three different dinners for five people.

Before I completely threw in the towel and bought a year’s worth of mason jars for making jam, I went to the internet.

We live in a golden age of information and misinformation where food is concerned. I could spend the rest of an eternity fact checking and cross referencing the articles available on this kind of thing. One alternative that kept popping up was quinoa.

Quinoa is a super versatile grain that is a cross between pasta and rice with a slight nutty flavor. Quinoa is also a big dietary component of those who are gluten free. Many recipes I found consist of other gluten free, dairy free, vegan friendly ingredients. Thankfully the restrictions I am working with aren’t quite as limiting. There was some tweaking involved when we started this new adventure.

New textures and dishes have a tendency to fly like a lead balloon around here if I am not careful, but I felt like it was worth a chance. Quinoa has many healthy characteristics and leads itself to a great side dish.

I started out with quinoa mac and cheese. Cheese makes everything better doesn’t it? Start out by cooking the quinoa according to the package directions. Some need to be rinsed before cooking, much like wild rice. Once it is cooked, combine the cooked quinoa, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 2 large eggs, 1 cup of milk and 1 ½ cups of cheddar cheese(More if you would like to sprinkle some on top), and a dash of salt and pepper. Combine until all the ingredients are incorporated and bake in a 9×13 pan at 350 for 30/35 minutes.

Quinoa Mac and Cheese. HOLY CHEESUS!!! Healthy and packed with protein (made with Almond Milk)...what if I added ground flaxseed into the panko crumbs for added fiber with the broccoli? There would be so much nutritional value that I wouldn't be able to feel guilty about the cheese :)

Serve immediately and be sure not to overcook this dish as the quinoa continues to soak up the extra moisture and you will lose all that creamy goodness. If you like, you can add steamed veggies before baking or top with panko bread crumbs and/or crumbled bacon for some extra crunch. Even our youngest was willing to try a few bites so all in all it was a win-win. Stay tuned for the next installment of Adventures in Quinoa.

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Apple Kolaches

Apple Kolaches

My mother was a third generation American but a full blooded Czech. Growing up with subtle reminders of your own ethnic subset is common and even endearing as you get older. As a child, it was not uncommon to have Jaternice(Pronounced “ethernitze”) or Klobása sausage and sauerkraut or knedlíky (potato dumplings).

Kolaches are a traditional Bohemian pastry normally made with yeast with a filling made from prune, apricot, or cheese. For simplicity, this recipe is sans yeast and I even cheated by using pre-prepared pie filling.(GASP!) Think of it as a faster way to enjoy the end result.

The Dough

Ingredients
  • 1c Butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 6oz Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3/4c Sugar
  • 2c Flour
Directions
  1. Cream the butter and cream cheese together thoroughly. 5 minutes on a mixer is not out of the question.
  2. Add the sugar and mix well.
  3. Add the flour and mix well. Take note: the dough should be stiff you if your mixer sucks, do it by hand.
  4. She the dough into a ball and then set, bowl and all in the refrigerator to shill for 1 hr. This will help solidify it for rolling.

The Pastry

  1. Well flour a cotton dish towel or cutting board and cut the dough ball in half.
  2. Take that half of a dough ball and roll it out on the surface to 1/8 inch thickness.
  3. Cut the rolled dough into squares somewhere between 2×2 and 4×4 inches. The larger, the more filling you can fit in each. Some people like them petite and some people like them bigger.
  4. Dab a 1/2 tsp or 1 tsp of filling in the center of your squares.
  5. Gently gather all 4 corners of the square together at the top and pinch them together. Then push the pinched part down to flare out the 4 slits between the gathered sides.(You’ll be able to see the filling then)
  6. Put on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400° for 15 to 17 minutes.

Options:

  • Gather only 2 sides together overlapping leaving the kolache longer and more open.(Your filling might run more so don’t overfill)
  • Once cooled you can drizzle a simple vanilla icing over the top for an extra sweet treat.

 

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